A Memphis Miracle

Several days ago, I was hanging out with the rich folks at the pool at Moore’s Mill Club in Auburn.

Lying in the lounge chair next to me was Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

We had an intriguing conversation that covered everything from World War II veterans to some of the ins and outs of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

There was one story, however, that stood out above all the rest and deserves to be shared.

Our story starts out on the mean streets of Memphis, Tennessee, in January of this year. Sure Memphis is the home of BBQ, the blues, and Elvis, but, as with any city its size, there are some seedy parts of The River City, too.

Two of Memphis’ finest, officers Chad Conley and Dwayne Johnson, spotted a stray a stray dog walking along the sidewalk.

It was evident to the officers that the dog hadn’t eaten in a while, so Officer Conley shared some of his sandwich with the rambling canine.

It didn’t take long for the officers to realize that this wasn’t just any dog. He was special.

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They named him Graham Leroy which was derived from the name of the intersection of the two roads where he was found.

Not wanting to drop him off at the Memphis Animal Shelter, Conley reached out to a former colleague, dog lover, and current Lee County Deputy Sheriff Jennifer Bosler, who, unfortunately, was unable to take him in.

“At that time, I had a foster from the Lee County Humane Society who had two puppies, so along with my three dogs, I wasn’t in a position to take in another one,” Bosler regretfully said.

With heavy hearts, the officers had no choice but to leave Graham Leroy with the Memphis Animal Shelter.

Meanwhile, 350 miles away, Bosler was worried sick that this special dog would be euthanized.

While at the shelter, Graham Leroy received a lot of tender loving care and very quickly regained his healthy form. He was neutered and, at the request of Johnson, had a microchip implanted in his leg with the officer’s contact information.

Why would Officer Johnson do such a thing for a dog he would likely never see again?

For the answer, keep reading.

It turned out that Johnson found a home for him with one of his wife’s co-workers who stepped up to the plate and adopted this special pooch, who was now simply called Leroy.

The Johnsons would often inquire about Leroy and were under the impression that he was doing just fine. It appeared that everyone would live happily ever after, after all.

At the end of April, Johnson was contacted by a fellow officer who had picked up an injured stray on the other side of town. The microchip in the dog’s leg revealed Johnson’s contact information.

Leroy was found in excess of 20 miles from his adopter’s home, so there’s no telling how long he’d been out on his own, again.

Johnson linked up with the fellow officer to take custody of Leroy.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that the same stray dog would be rescued by the same people twice in a city the size of Memphis.

Like Officer Conley said, Leroy was special.

It appeared that Leroy had been hit by a car and had an injured leg. Officer Johnson took him to the veterinarian where he was informed that his leg would need to be amputated. The cost for the surgery alone would be $800, which didn’t include medicine, boarding, or follow up visits.

Notice the injured left leg. Atrophy had set in.

Notice the injured left leg. Atrophy had set in.

Once again, they reached out to one of Lee County’s resident dog lovers, Deputy Sheriff Jennifer Bosler.

“So I told Chad that I’d contact my vet, Dr. Jere Colley of Opelika Animal Hospital. I spoke with Dr. Colley and shared with him how special this dog was. Not only had he been lucky to run across Chad and Dwayne once…but twice. That’s quite amazing considering the size of Memphis. I really felt that God placed that dog in their path both times. With that being said, he said he would help us out,” said Bosler.

She met Johnson in Birmingham on May 18 and immediately had that “feeling” about this dog. The return trip was uneventful, as was the introduction to the other dogs at the Bosler house of dogs.

He enjoyed the ride “home."

He enjoyed the ride “home.”

He got along well with the other dogs.

He got along well with the other dogs.

A couple of days later, Leroy was taken to Opelika Animal Hospital where it was discovered that he had a severed lateral nerve in his left front leg.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Jennifer Elrod on May 21. He stayed in the hospital for approximately 10 days.

Dr. Colley said Leroy did amazingly well following the amputation, which led him to believe he’d been without the use of that leg for quite some time.

At the vet, he did very well post-op.

At the vet, he did very well post-op.

It’s important to note that the procedure was performed at a discount by Opelika Animal Hospital and was funded entirely by a collection taken up by the Memphis Police Department.

Oftentimes at work, Bosler would mention the trials and tribulations of Leroy to Sheriff Jay Jones who became interested in his story.

“The first time I saw him, I figured he was a unique animal. He was in pre-op condition and that left front leg was just dangling limp. If it bothered him, you wouldn’t know, because he was bouncing around like the happiest dog alive. I learned of his background and the thought of offering to claim him did cross my mind. I’ve always admired a resilient attitude when facing tough odds, be it man or beast,” said the sheriff.

He shared Leroy’s story with Judy, his wife, so an introduction was in order. Bosler and Leroy visited the sheriff’s home in Auburn soon thereafter. Bosler was able to leave; Leroy, however, has taken up permanent residence at the Jones home.

Memphis enjoying his new home in Auburn.

Memphis enjoying his new home in Auburn.

He’s also taken up a different name. Memphis is what he answers to these days. It almost sounds as if he’s in the Witness Protection Program.

“The first time Judy saw Memphis, she looked at me and said, “I like this dog.” I knew that was it. Shoot, he had me after he ran three miles with me the first morning he came to the house. Later in the day, he came over and laid that big square head in my lap and looked up at me with his big brown eyes like dogs do. I know anyone that has ever had a dog knows exactly what I’m talking about. Well, that did it for sure,” Sheriff Jones went on to say.

Here's a current photo of Memphis, He appears to be living the good life-Aug 2013

Here’s a current photo of Memphis. He appears to be living the good life-Aug 2013

“I can’t lie, I miss the ole boy. He truly is a special dog, but I do get visitation rights,” Bosler said with a smile.

Sheriff Jones summed it up nicely by saying, “After all he’s been through, I have to believe the Almighty put him here for a purpose. If it was to inspire, then that plan is working to perfection.”

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com

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National Stuttering Awareness Week

National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 12-18, 2014.

This is my blog from last year. Hope you enjoy. Hope you learn something. Hope you become more aware. Thanks for reading.

May 13-19 is Stuttering Awareness Week and is intended to bring attention to the challenges of stuttering.

For the first decade or so of my life, my older brother and I were the only two kids I knew who suffered from the speech disorder known as stuttering. Miraculously, around the age of 12, my brother’s stutter ceased to exist. I was very happy for him and equally as excited for my future. I was thinking “two more years.” Thirty years later, my stutter is still going strong and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

We BOTH stuttered way back then…

If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have potentially retired at 12. It’s not easy being a kid, and it’s especially difficult when you’re different. The biggest fear for most Americans is public speaking, so imagine being a stuttering child having to read aloud a paragraph from “Charlotte’s Web” as the whole class looks, listens, and laughs. It’s not easy. Imagine sitting at your desk with your palms sweating, pulse racing, and heart pounding like you’re about to testify against the mafia, when, in fact, you’re simply sitting there in anticipation of having to read a paragraph from “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Again, it’s not easy.

That all changed for me in the 8th grade when I decided to ease the anxiety by volunteering to read each and every time. My hand was always the first to go up and stayed up for most of the class. I chose to be in complete control of what and when to read. If kids laughed, they laughed. I’d usually have a witty one liner to shoot back at them which would ultimately shut them up. From that point on, I never again looked at my stuttering as a significant challenge.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m a comic, a speaker, and a soldier with 3 tours of duty in Iraq. I currently hold the rank of Captain in the Alabama National Guard. (Update, I’m now a Major in the IRR/Reserves)

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

Somewhere above the Atlantic en route to Iraq…

When I initially started out in comedy, my goal was to simply make the audience laugh and nothing else. After each show or online video, I’d get feedback on how my comedy helped educate them with respect to their family and friends who also suffered from this speech disorder. I was blown away by this. Until seeing my routine, they’d never considered the challenges a person who stutters faces on a daily basis. Imagine the fear of talking on a telephone. Imagine the fear of ordering food at a restaurant. Imagine the fear of not being able to say your child’s name.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

I also get random messages from young men and women who aspire to serve in the military but feel they are disqualified due to their speech disorder. Being able to inspire them to follow their dreams might be the highlight of what I do. Stuttering is no joke but having the ability to inspire and bring awareness to stuttering through humor has truly been a gift from God.

Stuttering is still one of the great unknowns. I’ve been stuttering for 40 years and still can’t explain it. I can probably do a better job of explaining the Pythagorean Theorem. I do know, however, that 4 out of 5 people who stutter are male and that only around 1% of the world’s population will ever know what it’s like to get “stuck” on the simplest of sounds. I, just like any person who stutters, have my good days and bad days and everything in between. Additionally, we don’t always get hung up on the same sounds, words, or sentences. And finally, the number one pet peeve for most of us is having people finish our words or sentences. We have something to say, so let us say it.

I’ve had the great fortune of attending the last two National Stuttering Association (NSA) annual conventions. The convention is not a pity party. It’s a fun and inspiring celebration filled with education, awareness, acceptance & empowerment. Because of my upbringing and military service, I’ve always been and adapt and overcome kind of guy but attending the NSA convention has even opened up my eyes to the difficulty many of my fellow stutterers face each and every day. I’ve even met people who do indeed stutter when they sing.

(Update, I’ve now been to the last three conferences and even have the extreme honor of giving the keynote at this year’s conference.)

The NSA convention is a four day conference but would likely be a two day conference for any other group; however, since they are usually held in very nice locations such as Florida and Arizona, four days work out just fine. In 2011, we had the writer for the Academy Award winning film “The King’s Speech” as the keynote speaker. I may be the only person who stutters who has not seen the film. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of a 40 year old guy from the south not having seen “Smokey and the Bandit.” I understand it’s a great film. (Update: My wife bought be “The King’s Speech” on DVD just last week. I still haven’t watched it…but I will.)

Another great film featuring a person who stutters is “Star Wars.” James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, endured severe stuttering during his childhood but has gone on to have one of the greatest voices of our time. He truly beat the odds. Of course he did have one slight advantage; he was a Jedi.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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